The other morning I awoke an hour early so I made myself a cup of hot tea
and turned on the TV. My youngest son, David had been watching it the
night before and it was turned to the Nick at Nite station. An old
Andy Griffith Show was playing; which caught my attention because it was in
Technicolor, rather than black and white. In the episode I was
watching, "Opie's Job", the characters Opie Taylor and Billy
Crenshaw compete for a job at the town's grocery store.
In this quaint story, (episode 161 that ran in 1965, the sixth season of
the show), the two Mayberry boys are both "good kids" who are hard
working and coconscious, and although it's a close call, Opie gets the job.
There is a sense of relief once the competition is over and the boys shake
hands and finally have time to talk to each other. Opie confides to
the Billy that he plans to save up a few months' earnings and get himself a
new bike with all the trimmings. It turns out that Billy's father has
been sick and he wants to join the other family members and bring in
whatever money he can to help make ends meet.
Upon learning Billy's plight, Opie tells his new boss he wants to skip
the rest of his first day's work to go play baseball. Predictably,
Opie gets fired. When Sheriff Andy Taylor, Opie's dad, learns his son
was "fired" he is angry, and he's disappointed. Once Andy
finds out about his son's motives and actions, he is, of course, very proud
It's a sweet story from a simpler time in American life. It's a
fictional story, however. I'm going to tell you another story, about
another "Good Kid" and this one is real.
Mario Cruz is an honors student in the eleventh grade. In spite of
being parentless, and of limited financial means, Mario has stayed on the
right track, worked hard, and excelled in school. This extraordinary
young man has managed to achieve perfect school attendance and a 4.0+ GPA.
He is Junior Class Officer (ASB), Key Club Officer, CSF, La Raza Unida, and
besides studying hard and getting very good grades, he also performs
volunteer work and works after school and weekends, earning what money he
Mario has been recognized by a number of government officials including
U.S. Congressman Gary Miller, Governor Gray Davis, Mayor Eddie Cortez,
Assemblyman Bob Pacheco, U.S. Congressman Jerry Lewis, Senator Pete Knight,
Assemblyman Keith Oldberg, Mayor Terry E. Caldwell, Councilwoman Jackie
Goldberg, Supervisor Don Knabe, and others for his outstanding character,
academic achievements, and community service.
Mario attended summer school last year for extra credit. While
doing some volunteer work for the school, a sudden gust of wind blew a sign
into his face and injured his eye and cut his face just above the eyebrow.
Mario had a test that day and he wanted to remain and take his test instead
of leaving school and going to the hospital. Besides, he didn't have
any medical insurance or money to pay medical bills. Not knowing his
financial situation, the person in charge at the school insisted Mario leave
school and go to the hospital.
Luckily, a co-worker noticed Mario walking to the hospital and gave him a
lift. The hospital had generously agreed to treat Mario and write off
his bill. After being treated at the emergency room and getting
stitched up, the doctor gave Mario a prescription, told him to go home, take
some pain medication, and go to bed. Immediately upon leaving the
hospital, Mario walked back to school, finished the day's classes, and took
his test - which he aced. The hospital bill was eventually written off
as promised, but there was a mix up and the doctor's bill wasn't.
Rather than complain or walk away from his responsibilities, Mario worked
extra hours at his job and did some odd jobs, so he could pay off the doctor
bills, which were several hundred dollars.
Unlike most high school juniors, Mario has no parents and must do his own
laundry, cook his own meals, and do shopping and housework. While
doing all these things for himself, Mario also has to attend school, do his
homework, and study - and as an honors student, he has lots of schoolwork.
Mario lives with his brother and cousin who are seniors in high school.
He works after school and weekends to pay his share of the rent, utilities,
and food. He has a difficult life, but he remains positive and upbeat.
He loves school and he's looking forward to going on to college. He
wants to work as hard as he can to get good grades and achieve a high SAT
score to increase his chances of being accepted to a good collage, and
perhaps even get a scholarship.
In remarks entered into the Congressional Record last summer, Congressman
Gary Miller said, "Mario's commitment to education is demonstrated by
his perfect attendance record and excellent grades. His ability to excel in
school is made all the more impressive when one takes into account the
exclusive attention he gives to his home duties, while additionally helping
to support himself through work and occupational training.
Despite losing both of his parents at a young age, Mario has remained
positive and dedicated to building a prosperous personal and community life.
Mario's overwhelming triumph over difficult and challenging circumstances is
both moving and inspiring.
Mario's long list of educational accomplishments include attaining
excellent grades, being in the top 2% of his class, achieving perfect
attendance, serving as a Junior Class Officer and Key Club Officer,
attending after-school occupational training and summer school classes for
Mario's decision to remain alcohol, tobacco, drug and gang free and his
unlimited future potential serve as an invaluable and exemplary model of
dedication, honesty, determination, strength of character and success for
his community and peers.
Respected and well liked by all teachers and peers alike, Mario Cruz
embodies the finest qualities of America's youth…"
Mario has certainly had his share of adversity to overcome. His
father was abusive and left 11 years ago. A year later his mother died
of cancer and the children were separated. Mario's sister and younger
brother went away to foster homes, and he and his two older brothers were
placed locally with relatives who had several children of their own, and
were of limited means. Mario and his two older brothers became
self-sufficient far sooner than their contemporaries. Mario wants to
follow in the footsteps of his oldest brother, who earned a full academic
scholarship and attends Occidental College.
Diamond Bar Sister City has arranged for some much needed medical and
dental care and is also looking for some sponsors to provide Mario with some
financial assistance while he attends high school. If you would like
to find out more about Project Mario and the Stay in School program, contact
Diamond Bar Sister City at 909-860-6914.
Nick Anis is a local freelance writer with over two dozen books in print.
You can reach him via email at NickAnis@aol.com.
# # #
Nick Anis is a food, wine, and travel
and technology writer with over 24 books in print published by
McGraw-Hill, Random House, Bantam, Ziff-Davis, Tab, and others. Nick's
articles have appeared in The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, West Coast
Media, The Family Publications Group, The Weekly News, and Travel-Watch.
His beats include food, travel, snow and waters sports, entertainment,
family recreation, consumer electronics, home improvement, and automotive.
He is responsible for the Restaurant Row Ethnic Dining Guide, co-published
by the Long Beach Press Telegram. Nick is an
accomplished downhill skier, PADI certified SCUBA diver, and when he's not
sitting on his butt goofing off, enjoys a variety of active recreation
including tennis, riding motorcycles, ATVs, wave runners, snow machines,
horses, skeet and trap shooting he's also taken a stab at riding camels,
donkeys, elephants, ostriches, lamas, dolphins, Reindeer, bulls,
mechanical bulls, and buffalo. Nick is a member (A
Secretary/Treasurer) of the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers
Association (IFWTWA), a member of the North American Snow Sports
Journalist Association (NASJA), Computer Press Association, The Writer's
Guild, and listed in Books in Print, Media Map, and Press Access.
You can reach Nick at Editor@Travel-Watch.com.